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Grading Maryland football’s position groups after its loss to Purdue

The Terps fell by two to the Boilermakers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Purdue at Maryland Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In its sixth game of the season, Maryland football fell to Purdue, 31-29. It was a tough loss for the Terps, as numerous mistakes and a failed two-point conversion ended up being the difference.

Once again, it was Maryland’s defense that outplayed the offense, which went cold for much of the game. Still, there were some bright spots — as well as some dim ones — to take away from the team’s performance.

Here’s how each of the Terps’ position groups fared against the Boilermakers.


Taulia Tagovailoa’s best moments against Purdue came when he showcased his play-making ability rather than when he attempted to deliver passes from the pocket. He finished with a good statline — going 26-of-38 for 315 yards and three touchdowns — but did make a few mistakes.

Early in the game, Tagovailoa overthrew freshman wideout Shaleak Knotts, who had generated separation deep downfield and could’ve scored a touchdown had the throw been a bit more accurate. His deep balls have been shaky to this point in the season, missing receivers downfield on multiple occasions.

His interception was also a poor decision, throwing into double coverage.

Despite his mistakes, Tagovailoa did make some impressive plays. He scored a rushing touchdown on a read option, and his first passing touchdown to Corey Dyches downfield was an impressive find after stepping up in the pocket. His third touchdown of the game was also a nice strike to Dyches in the end zone.

Tagovailoa was good against Purdue but wasn’t given too many opportunities to open the game up.

Grade: B

Running back

The Terps’ running backs had their weakest performance of the season against the Boilermakers, carrying the ball only 19 times for a total of 76 yards. Roman Hemby and Ramon Brown did add 84 yards receiving, and Hemby had a touchdown on a screen pass.

Antwain Littleton II struggled to repeat his performance from last week, only totaling 30 yards rushing on just six attempts. Hemby carried the ball the most times (seven) and Colby McDonald wasn’t far behind with five attempts.

For much of the game, the Terps shied away from running the ball, instead opting to air it out. Of course, that decreases the production of the group, but it also happened partially because Maryland was struggling to generate much on the ground. The longest run of the day was a 13-yard rush by Littleton.

Grade: B

Wide receiver

The two leading receivers in Saturday’s game were a tight end and running back; the leading wideout was Jacob Copeland with four receptions for 44 yards.

The offensive play-calling against Purdue left much to be desired, as oftentimes Maryland’s wide receivers were not put in position to do much damage. On multiple occasions, Tagovailoa sent the ball out wide for a screen pass without much room to run. There’s something to be said about getting the ball in your playmakers’ hands, but it has to be done in an effective manner, not a forced one.

It was encouraging to see Dontay Demus Jr. come up with a 35-yard reception on the first drive of the game, as he looked healthier and snappier than any other game this year. His continued development could be key moving forward.

Grade: B-

Tight end

Corey Dyches was the star of the show — at least on offense — for the Terps Saturday, racking up 106 receiving yards and adding two touchdowns. His first touchdown was one of the most impressive the Terps have had this season, dragging a defender nearly 15 yards into the end zone for a score right before the half.

For a tight end, Dyches is an elite receiving threat and has become one of Tagovailoa’s most trusted targets.

CJ Dippre was less involved in the offense but still had his moments. He was used primarily in blocking sets but still had two receptions on three targets, one of which was a questionable screen play considering his athleticism relative to his teammates.

Still, the play of Dyches was impressive enough to make the tight ends Maryland’s best offensive position group against Purdue.

Grade: A

Offensive line

The Terps’ offensive line did not play close to as well as it could’ve against Purdue. The unit allowed five sacks — a season high — and was also unable to establish much in the running game.

Most importantly, though, the penalty problem from earlier in the season reared its ugly head once again. The offensive line committed five penalties for 35 yards, most notably when DJ Glaze was flagged as an ineligible man downfield on a two-point conversion attempt that would’ve tied the game; Glaze was on the other side of the field and his block likely wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the play. Those mistakes simply can’t happen on pivotal plays in close games.

It was by no means a horrible performance by the group, but it was a big step back after a few weeks of very solid play.

Grade: C-

Defensive line

While Maryland’s defensive line didn’t necessarily get credit on the stat sheet for its contributions, it did a good job of collapsing the pocket. Aidan O’Connell’s awareness was put to the test Saturday.

Ami Finau had a tackle for loss, the only registered by a defensive lineman all game, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Terps’ run defense only allowed 26 yards by Purdue’s top running back Devin Mockobee, and that all started up front. It was an encouraging performance by a group that has struggled to generate pressure with consistency this year.

Grade: B


Jaishawn Barham is establishing himself as one of the best freshmen in the nation with his play this season. He had himself another big game against Purdue, forcing a fumble and adding two sacks. Barham has been the linebacker room’s most consistent performer week in and week out and is a player that Maryland can legitimately build its front seven around moving forward.

After being quiet for most of the season, Durell Nchami finally had a breakout game, recording three tackles for loss — two of which were sacks — and forcing a fumble. He was graded as a potential NFL player in the preseason, and if he catches a groove, his play will bolster the Terps’ pass rush.

Even with the return of Ruben Hyppolite clogging up the depth chart, Fa’Najae Gotay also had his best showing of the season, leading the team with seven tackles and pitching in on a sack.

Ahmad McCullough was flagged for a personal foul on a late hit to Aidan O’Connell, but that was the only obvious mistake by the Terps’ linebackers Saturday.

Grade: A


Even though O’Connell had 360 yards passing, Maryland’s secondary was good against Purdue.

Jakorian Bennett continued to break up passes, three to be exact. He did have the unit’s biggest blunder, dropping a gift-wrapped interception that was caught by a Purdue receiver leading to a touchdown. He ended up getting a pick later in the game, though, when the roles reversed and a pass tipped off a receiver’s hands into his.

Deonte Banks also had his best performance to this point this season, breaking up a pass and making six tackles, getting credit on a sack as well.

The safeties also performed relatively well.

Tarheeb Still was flagged for 25 yards worth of penalties, but his 15-yard pass interference was a better alternative than a long touchdown. In all, it was a very good, but not amazing performance from the secondary.

Grade: B+

Special teams

It would be an overreaction to say that the Terps’ special teams lost the game against Purdue. But, it was an incredibly disappointing performance from a group that has looked much improved from last season.

Chad Ryland missed a 52-yard field goal but hit one from 46 yards out. He was good on kickoffs, but was not a touchback machine like he has been at times this season. Still, Ryland played like a better-than-decent college kicker Saturday, although Terps fans know he is capable of more.

The biggest mistake on a kick was not Ryland’s fault, as an extra point of his was blocked after a Purdue edge rusher went essentially unblocked. Plays like that, similar to the penalty on the two-point conversion — which only was needed because of the blocked extra point — lose games between evenly-matched teams.

The punt game was also uninspiring for Maryland. Colton Spangler started slow but picked up his play as the game went on, finishing with an average of 40.4 yards per punt. Punt and kick returns were essentially nonexistent for the Terps.

Special teams is often an overlooked aspect of football. It’s not glamorous and gets fewer opportunities than offense or defense, but it can be the difference in a game, especially when it’s close late.

Grade: C-